Boy Scouts allowing transgender kids into boys-only programs

Effective immediately

FILE- In this June 25, 2016, file photo, Cub Scouts watch a race during the Second Annual World Championship Pinewood Derby in New York's Times Square. The Boy Scouts of America announced Monday, June 25, 2016, that it will allow transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in its boys only programs. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

DALLAS (AP) — A New Jersey woman whose son was asked to leave his Boy Scouts troop after leaders found out he is transgender said she has mixed emotions about the organization’s decision to allow transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in its boys-only programs.

The Boy Scouts of America announced Monday that enrollment in its boys-only programs will now be based on the gender a child or parent lists on his application to become a scout, rather than the gender listed on the child’s birth certificate.

Eight-year-old Joe Maldonado was asked to leave his scout troop in Secaucus, New Jersey, last fall after parents and leaders found out he is transgender. The organization’s statement did not specifically mention Joe’s case, but said it changed the policy because of the larger conversation about gender identity taking place around the country.

“For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the statement said. “However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”

Kristie Maldonado, Joe’s mother, said she had mixed emotions Monday night when a Boy Scouts representative called to tell her the organization would allow her son to re-enroll in his troop. Maldonado said she would like her son to rejoin the Secaucus troop, but only if the scout leader who threw him out of the troop leaves.

She said Joe, who will turn 9 on Wednesday, has spoken publicly about the incident. She called him a “ham” and noted he had a big birthday party on Saturday with the mayor of Secaucus in attendance.

“I’m so grateful. I really am that they’re accepting and that there won’t be any issues. They (other transgender youth) won’t have to go through what my son went through,” Maldonado said by phone Monday. “It’s a big change for everybody that all are accepted now … I’m so delighted that they finally called and they did say this, but I’m still angry.”

Maldonado said the decision to remove her son from the troop made him feel different, and she wanted to make sure he knew the troop made a mistake.

The Boy Scouts said the enrollment decision goes into effect immediately.

“Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child,” the statement said.

Zach Wahls, co-founder of the groups Scouts for Equality, called the decision historic.

“The decision to allow transgender boys to participate in the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts is an important step forward for this American institution,” he wrote in a statement posted to social media. “We are incredibly proud of Joe Maldonado — the transgender boy from New Jersey whose expulsion last year ignited this controversy — and his mother Kristie for their courage in doing what they knew was right. We are also proud of the Boy Scouts for deciding to do the right thing.”

Boy Scouts of America leaders lifted a blanket ban on gay troop leaders and employees in July 2015 amid intense pressure. The group decided in 2013 — after heated debate — to allow openly gay youth as scouts.

The national Girl Scouts organization, which is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts, has accepted transgender members for years.

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Associated Press writer Josh Cornfield in Trenton, New Jersey, contributed to this report.